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Research

I currently lead the following SSHRC-funded research teams:

Unpaid Carers – Politicization and Mobilization (webpage forthcoming;  2021-2025)

Political advocacy around unpaid care tends to focus on amplifying carers’ voices and needs, and expanding access to individual-level supports to maintain carers in their role. Recently, care advocates and academics have called for structural and policy changes to value and improve conditions for care across labour, community and client sectors. Yet within this movement, there has been limited political articulation of unpaid carers as citizens with rights and agency, or as activists who can produce radical, situated, change-based knowledge. Political inaction more broadly is connected to gendered familial and neoliberal ideologies that can limit our abilities to envision mutual, collective or solidaristic forms of care. That said, our prior research suggests that although carers’ advocacy is limited by how women’s work and lives are valued or understood, carers can engage in forms of politicization and activism, e.g., by reframing care as a public rather than private responsibility.

Supporting care advocacy is crucial given that the status quo is harmful for carers and unsustainable for society more broadly, which relies on this unpaid labour. As policies are unlikely to change without public demand, in this project we investigate public rhetoric around care and family responsibility, examine conditions under which family carers engage in collective action or politicization, and explore how carers’ insights might inform a broad-based care movement and expand conceptions of family care. Building on our extensive, diverse expertise in care, aging, feminist theory and activism, we bridge rhetorical and ethnographic inquiry with a ‘future-making’ orientation, developing and analyzing a caregiving advocacy rhetoric dataset, interviews with home-based carers of older adults, observations of carers’ formalized group conversations, and transformative discussion workshops. Throughout, we expand feminist theories of care and social movement activism with a focus on everyday citizenship and politicization. We ask: (1) How is family care understood in care advocacy rhetoric? (2) Under which conditions do family carers engage in everyday politicization practices – developing collective identities or reframing the division of unpaid care as a socio-political issue? (3) How might focused carer dialogue shift understandings of care and family responsibility, or envision alternative care arrangements? We will engage carers and collaborators in five cities in five provinces, capitalizing on our team’s ties to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Gatineau, and Halifax.

Full team for “Strengthening care mobilization in Canada’s social welfare state”: Laura Funk (PI, UManitoba), Pat Armstrong (York University, ON)  Katie Aubrect (St Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia), Chris Ceci (UAlberta), Maria Cherba (UOttawa), Mara Fridell (UManitoba), Janna Klostermann (Brock, ON), Holly Symonds-Brown (UAlberta), & Dana Sawchuk (Wilfrid Laurier, ON)

Dying at Home (2018-2022)
The purpose of this mixed methods study is to examine and compare public attitudes and policy on dying at home and responsibility for supporting home death. Our overall inquiry, as well as our methodological approach, is grounded in a critical theoretical orientation that attends to potential inequities and to the historical, social, political, and economic context of home care, palliative care and family care work in Canada. Objective 1 is to examine Canadians’ attitudes about home death and responsibility for EOL care at home, and identify correlates of variation. Objective 2 is to explore social meanings of dying at home and care responsibility within diverse and/or marginalized subgroups. Objective 3 is to explore implicit and explicit expectations regarding responsibility for supporting home death within policy documents. Objective 4 is to integrate these forms of knowledge to assess differences and similarities in public attitudes, subgroup meanings, and expectations embedded within policy texts, and explore how policies can generate inequities. This project is in it’s final year and research outputs are forthcoming.

In addition, I recently led the following SSHRC-funded research study:

Older Adults & Violence Project (2016-2018)
Older adults are more vulnerable to violence and experience the impacts of victimization more profoundly than other age groups. Elder abuse dominates much of the existing literature on the topic of violence and older adults, though tends to focus on violence perpetrated by family caregivers and paid care workers. More recently, there has been growing attention to another type of violence involving older adults – violence towards paid service workers by older adults (often with cognitive impairment). Both forms of violence are likely to increase in our shifting demographic and economic context. Normally, however, these forms of violence, though both involving older adults, are studied as isolated phenomena. Moreover, existing research indicates little about how these various forms of violence and victimization are interpreted by those involved. In the proposed research project we will apply a uniquely broad focus to examine interpretations of, and emotional dynamics involved in, violence and victimization across a range of settings and relationships between and with older adults. Our research team recently examined variations in subjective interpretations of violent interactions across home and institutional settings, and in differing relationships, including spousal relationships, resident relationships, and those between service workers and older adult clients and their families. This includes situations of more traditionally conceptualized elder abuse as well as workplace violence (in both paid and unpaid work). The central research question was: how do older adults, their family members and paid service workers interpret interpersonal violence and victimization?

Previous to this, I have led research projects examining how family caregivers navigate systems, the roles of paid companions and volunteers in long-term residential care, and the emotional labour involved in health care work. See publications or contact me for more details.